What to do when a firearm owner dies or suffers dementia - The Loose Canon

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When a firearm owner dies

The first thing to note is that there are particular provisions in most of the Firearms and Weapons Acts dealing with the death of a licence holder, and an Executor, if there is a will, or a holder of Letters of Administration from the Supreme Court,

If there is not, the executor may possess but not use the firearms for the purpose of disposal.

Generally, the Registry must be notified of the shooter’s death as soon as is practical.  Also remember to notify the Registry of any change of firearms storage address.

It is therefore of the utmost importance that a solicitor acting in respect to the estate be advised at the earliest opportunity that the estate involves firearms. You may need to alert the Solicitor handling the estate of the fact that the Firearms Act contains these provisions, as Probate legislation is silent in respect to the requirements.

I note that over the years I have received a few calls from colleagues wondering what to do about firearms, as there is a lot of ignorance out there within the legal profession in respect to firearms related matters.

If a family member shoots, and wishes to acquire firearms, and the estate is happy with this, note that the usual requirements regarding the transfer of firearms including a PTA still applies.

If the shooter was a member of a club like the SSAA, the club armourer will often assist with the storage and disposal of firearms and accessories.

I suggest you leave a letter with your will advising the executor what you want to happen with your firearms and other equipment.

Generally, the estate has six months within which to dispose of the firearms. I suggest that this be clarified this at the time of advising the Registry of the death.

Demntia or other incapicity 

Dementia is becoming an increasingly significant health issue in Australia today. 

If you have a friend or relative who may be effected, and they shoot, you need to note that a person holding an enduring Power of Attorney is NOT in the same position as an executor or holder of Letters of Administration from a Supreme Court, as there is nothing in the Firearms Legislation in any State or Territory that provides them with justification to possess firearms.

A person can loan firearms, and if you have the appropriate level of licence, you may prefer look after their firearms with their consent.  If you do this, the firearms Registry will need to be advised of the change in storage address. 

However, if the person’s dementia is so bad that they are unable to give consent, arrangements will need to arrange for the firearms to be collected by Police or a licensed dealer and held pending assessment of the fitness of the licence holder to retain firearms.

I am a semi retired solicitor who has a lifelong interest in shooting, having acquired my first firearm at the age of nine.  I have an active interest in firearms law since writing a thesis on the topic over thirty years ago at University, and I now practice almost extensively in Firearms Law matters throughout Australia.

I have regularly published articles on firearms law matters and I am occasionally asked to comment in the broader media on firearms matters.

This article is written for general information only and does not constitute advice. 

Simon Munslow

National Firearms Lawyer

P: (02) 6299 9690

M: 0427 280 962

E: solicitor@bigpond.com

W: firearmslawyer.com.au

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